This lecture was given at Dornach in September of 1921, and is included in Volume 207 of the Bibliographic Survey, 1961. It is lecture 1 of 11 from the lecture series: Anthroposophy as Cosmosophy Vol. I It is also known as: At the Center of Man's Being: II, or Natural Law and Moral Law.
24 September 1921, Dornach
Yesterday I spoke of how we find within man a kind of centre of destruction. I showed how as long as we remain within the limits of ordinary consciousness, we retain memories of the impressions made upon us by the world, but that this is as far as we can go. We receive our impressions from the world; we turn them into experience through our senses and through our understanding, through all the manifold effects they have upon our soul; and later we are able to call up again pictures of what we have experienced. We bear these pictures within us; they are for us our inner life.
It is indeed as though we had within us a mirror; but one that works differently from the ordinary spatial mirror. For the ordinary mirror reflects what is in front of it in space, whereas the living mirror we carry within us reflects in quite another way. It reflects the sense-impressions we receive, and reflects them in the course of time. Something or other — at some later moment — causes this or that impression to be reflected back again into consciousness, and so we have a memory of a past experience.
If we break a mirror that is in space, then we can see behind it; we can look into a realm we cannot see when the mirror is intact. Correspondingly, if we carry out inner exercises of the soul, we come, as I have often suggested, to something like a breaking of the inner mirror. The memories can as it were cease for a time — for how long a time depends upon ourselves — and we can look more deeply into our inner being. As we do this, as we look within behind the memory-mirror, then what I described as a kind of centre and heart of destruction meets our gaze.
There must needs be such a centre within us, for only in such a centre can the Ego of man establish itself. It is a centre for the strengthening and hardening of the Ego. But, as I said, if this hardening of the Ego, if this egoism is carried out into social life, then evil ensues, evil in the life and actions of men.
You may see from this how complicated is the life into which man is placed. Here you have something which has its good use and purpose within man, for otherwise he would not be able to develop his ego, but something which must never be allowed outside. The bad man carries in into the outer world; the good man keeps it inside him. If it is carried outside, it becomes evil and wrong. If it is kept within, it is the very thing we need to give the Ego its right and proper strength.
After all, there is really nothing in the world that would not bring blessing to man, were it only in its right place! We should be thoughtless and unreflecting, if we lacked this centre within us. For this centre enables us to experience in it something we would never be able to experience in the external world. In the external world we see objects in a material sense, and following the custom of present day science we speak of the conservation of matter, the indestructibility of matter. But in this centre of destruction it really happens that matter is destroyed. Matter is thrown back into nothingness, and we have the power within this nothingness to cause the good to arise. We do so, if instead of instincts and impulses, which are bound to work in the direction of egoism, we pour moral and ethical ideals into the centre of destruction. Then, in this very centre of destruction, the seeds of future worlds arise. Then we, as men, take part there in the coming into being of worlds.
When we speak, as you may read in my Outline of Occult Science, of how our Earth will one day suffer dissolution, and of how out of all manner of intermediate states of transformation the Jupiter existence will eventually be evolved, then we have to see it in this way. The Jupiter existence will contain nothing but the new creation that is being formed to-day in man within this centre of destruction. It is being formed out of man's moral ideals, but also out of his anti-moral impulses, out of what works as evil from his egoism. Hence the Jupiter existence will be a battle between the good which man, already here and now, is bringing to birth by carrying his moral ideals into his inner chaos, and the unmoral and anti-moral which is due to the presence of egoism.
Thus, when we look into our deepest selves, we are gazing upon a region where matter is thrown back into nothingness.
I went on to indicate how it is with the other side of human existence, where we are surrounded with sense-phenomena. We behold these phenomena spread around us like a carpet or tapestry, and we apply our intellect to combine and relate them and discover within them laws, which we then call the laws of nature. But with ordinary consciousness we never get beyond this tapestry of the senses. We penetrate it just as little as we penetrate the memory-mirror within. With a developed consciousness, however, we do come through it. Then men of ancient Oriental wisdom penetrated it with a consciousness informed by instinctive vision. And then they looked upon a world where egohood cannot hold its own in consciousness.
We enter this world every time we go to sleep. When we fall asleep, the Ego is dulled, and the reason is that beyond the tapestry of the senses lies that world where, to begin with, the ego-power, as it develops for human existence, has no place at all. Hence it is that the ancient Oriental, who had a peculiar longing to live behind the phenomena of the senses, used to speak of Nirvana, of the end and disappearance of egohood.
This brings us to the great contradiction between East and West. In times past the Oriental developed a longing to see behind the sense-phenomena, and in so doing acquired a power of vision into a spiritual world which is not composed of atoms and molecules but of spiritual Beings. This world was there in visible actuality for the perception of the ancient Oriental. In our days the Oriental, particularly in Asia but also in other parts of the world, is living in the decadent stages of this yearning to reach the world behind the sense phenomena; while the man of the West has developed his Ego, has allowed that hardening and strengthening to take place within the centre of destruction which we have described.
In saying this we are already on the way to seeing what it is that must enter into man's consciousness, now and in the early future. For if the pure intellectualism that has been developing ever since the middle of the 15th century were to continue, mankind would fall into decline; for intellectualism will never help us to pass either behind the memory-mirror or behind the tapestry of the world of the senses. And it is essential that man should acquire once more a consciousness of these worlds. He must do so, if Christianity is again to become a truth for him; it is not a truth for him to-day. We can see this clearly when we look at the modern conception of Christ — if indeed modern times may be said to have any idea of Christ at all. The truth is that we are living in a stage of evolution when man cannot possibly come to an idea of Christ as long as he makes use only of the concepts which he has been developing since the 15th century. In the 19th and 20th centuries he has become incapable of forming a true idea of Christ.
Man looks round about him on the world, and uses the combining faculty of his intellect to build up natural laws. Following a line of thought that is perfectly possible for the consciousness of the present day, he comes to the point when he could say: “The world is permeated with thought, for the laws of nature can be apprehended in thoughts; they are in reality the thoughts of the world. If I follow up the laws of nature I am bound eventually to apply them to the coming into existence of man himself as a physical being, and then I have to admit that within the world I survey with my ordinary consciousness, beginning with sense-perception and going on as far as the memory-mirror, a spiritual element lives.” One must needs be ill, pathologically ill, if like the atheistic materialist one is not willing to recognise this spiritual element. We live in this world that is given for ordinary consciousness; we come forth into it as physical man through physical conception and physical birth. But what is observable within the physical world must be inadequately contemplated if one fails to see behind the physical world a universal spiritual element.
When we are born as little babies, we are really for external perception not unlike some creature of nature. Then out of this being of nature, that is virtually in a kind of sleep condition, spiritual inner faculties gradually develop. If we learn to trace back these emerging spiritual faculties in the same way that we trace the gradual growth of the limbs, we find that we must look for their source beyond birth and conception. Thus we come to the point of thinking in a living and spiritual way about the world, where before, in our consideration of external nature, we only built up abstract laws. We come, in other words, to an affirmation of what we may call the Father God.
Scholasticism held — you will remember — that knowledge obtainable by ordinary rational observation of the world includes knowledge of the Father God. It is indeed true that if anyone sets out to analyse the world as it is given for ordinary consciousness, and does not end by gathering up all the natural laws in what is called the Father God, he must be in some way ill. To be an atheist is to be ill; that is how I put it here once before.
With the ordinary consciousness, this is as far as we can go. With the ordinary consciousness we can come to the Father God, but no further. It is symptomatic of our times when a theologian of such standing as Adolf Harnack says that Christ the Son does not really belong in the Gospels; that the Gospels are the message of the Father, and that Christ Jesus has place in the Gospels only in so far as He brought the message of the Father God. Here you may see quite clearly how with a certain inevitability this modern thinking leads men to recognise even in theology only the Father God, and to understand the Gospels themselves as containing no more than the message and tidings of the Father God. Thus in the sense of this theology Christ is of account only as having appeared in the world and brought to men the true teaching concerning the Father God.
Two things are implied in this. First, the belief that the message of the Father God cannot be read by a study of the world in the ordinary way. The Scholastics still held that it could. They did not imagine that the Gospels were there to speak of the Father God; they assumed that the Gospels were there to speak of God the Son. That men can come forward with the opinion that the Gospels speak only of the Father God is proof that theology, too, has fallen into that way of thinking which has developed as the peculiarly Western method.
For in early Christian times, up to about the third or fourth century, when there was still a good deal of the Oriental wisdom in Christianity, men were occupying themselves intently with the question of the difference between the Father God and God the Son. These fine differences that engaged attention in the early Christian centuries have long ceased to have meaning for modern man, who has been occupied in developing egohood as a result of the influences I have described.
A kind of untruth has thus found its way into modern religious consciousness. Through inner experience, through his analysis and synthesis of the world, man comes to the Father God. From tradition, he has God the Son. The Gospels speak of Him, tradition speaks of Him. Man has the Christ, he wants to acknowledge Him — but through inner experience he has Him no longer. Therefore he takes what he should apply only to the Father God and transfers it to the Christ God. Modern theology has not the Christ at all; it has only the Father — but it calls the Father “Christ,” because it has received the tradition of the Christ Being in history and, quite naturally, wants to be Christian. If we were honest, we should simply be unable to call ourselves Christians in modern times.
All this is quite changed when we go further East. Even in the East of Europe it is different. Take the Russian philosopher of whom I have frequently spoken — Soloviev. You find in him an attitude of soul that becomes a philosophy and speaks with full justification of a difference between Father and Son. Soloviev is inwardly justified in so speaking because for him both the Father and the Christ are experiences. The man of the West makes no distinction between God the Father and Christ. If you are inwardly honest with yourselves, you will feel that the moment you want to make a distinction between the Father God and the Christ, the two ideas become confused and involved. For Soloviev that would have been impossible. He experiences each separately, and so he has still an understanding for the spiritual conflict that was fought out during the earliest Christian centuries, in the endeavour to realise in consciousness the distinction between the Father God and God the Son.
This, however, is the very thing that modern man needs to learn. There must again be truth in calling ourselves Christians. It must not be that we make a pretence of worshipping the Christ and attribute to Him only the qualities of the Father. But to avoid this we must bring forward truths such as I have been indicating to-day. That is the only way we can come to the twofold experience, the experience of the Father and the experience of the Son.
It will be necessary to change the whole form of our consciousness. The abstract form of consciousness in which modern man is born and bred, and which does not permit of more than the recognition of the Father God, will have to be replaced by a much more concrete life of consciousness. Needless to say, one cannot set things before the world at large to-day in the way I have described them to you here, for people have not yet been sufficiently prepared by Spiritual Science and Anthroposophy. Yet there are ways in which one can point out even to modern men how they carry in them a centre of destruction, and how in the world outside there is something wherein the Ego of man is as it were submerged, where it cannot hold itself fast — as in earlier times men were told about the Fall and other doctrines of that kind. We in our time have only to find the right form for these truths — a form which would enable them to find their way into ordinary consciousness; they must become part of ordinary consciousness, even as the doctrine of the Fall of man used to give instruction concerning a spiritual foundation of the world, in ways that were different in their effect from our teaching of the Father God.
Our modern science will have to become permeated with conceptions such as those we have expounded here. At present it is ready to recognise in man only the laws of nature. But in this centre of destruction of which I have been speaking the laws of nature are united with the moral laws; there, natural law and moral law are one. Within man matter is annihilated, and so are all the laws of nature. Material life, together with all the laws of nature, is thrown back into chaos; and out of the chaos a new nature is able to arise, filled through and through with the moral impulses we ourselves lay into it. As we have said, this centre of destruction is below our memory-mirror. So that when we let our gaze penetrate deep down below this memory-mirror, there at last we observe it, though it is always within us. A man is not changed by knowledge: he merely comes to know what he is like, what his normal condition is. And he must learn to meditate upon these facts.
When we are able to penetrate into this inner core of evil in man, and are able also to become conscious of how into this evil, where matter is destroyed and thrown back into chaos, moral impulses can find their way, then we have really found in ourselves the beginning of spiritual existence. Then we perceive the spirit within us in the act of creating. For when we behold moral laws working upon matter which has been thrown back into chaos, we are beholding a real activity of the spirit taking place within us in a natural way. We become aware of the spirit concretely active within us, the spirit that is the seed of future worlds.
With what can we compare this finding? We cannot compare it with what our senses tell us of external nature. We can compare it only with a communication made to us by another human being through speech. It is indeed more than a comparison when we say of that which takes place in us, when moral and anti-moral impulses unite with the chaos inside us, that it speaks to us. There we have something that is no mere allegory or symbol, but actual fact. What we can hear externally with our ear is a speech toned down for the earth-world, but within us a speech is spoken that goes out beyond the earth, for it speaks out of that which contains the seeds of future worlds. There we penetrate into what we must call the “inner word.” In the words that we speak or hear in intercourse with other people, hearing and speaking are separate and distinct, but in our inner selves, when we dive down below the memory-mirror into the inner chaos, we are in a region of being where speaking and hearing go on at the same time. Hearing and speaking are once more united. The “inner word” speaks to us, and is heard in us.
We have, in fact, entered a realm where it is meaningless to speak of subjective and objective. When you listen to your fellow man, when he speaks words to you that you perceive with your sense of hearing, then you know that his being is outside you, but that you have to give yourself up, to surrender yourself, in order that you may perceive his being in what you hear him saying. On the other hand, you know that the actual word, the audible word, is not merely subjective, but is something placed into the world. Hence we find that even with the toned-down words that we hear and speak in our intercourse with other men, the distinction between subjective and objective loses meaning. We stand with our subjectivity in objectivity; and objectivity works in us when we perceive. It is the same when we dive down to the inner word. It is not only an inner word; it is at the same time something objective. It is not our inner being that speaks: our being is merely the stage whereon speaks the world.
It is similar for one who has insight to see behind the tapestry of the senses a spiritual world, a world wherein spiritual Beings of higher Hierarchies work and weave. To begin with, he perceives these Beings by means of Imagination; but for his vision they become permeated with inward life when he hears the “word”, apparently sounding to him through himself, but in reality from out of the world.
By means of love and devotion and surrender, accordingly, man presses his way through the tapestry of the senses and sees beyond; and the Beings who reveal themselves to him when he thus offers up his own being in full surrender — these Beings he comes to perceive with the help of what he recognises as “inner word.” The world without begins powerfully to resound when the inner word is awakened.
What I have been describing exists to-day in every human being. Only, he has no knowledge of it and so he gives no thought to it. He must grow into this knowledge; must learn to have it in thought and remembrance. When we learn to know the world with the ordinary consciousness that provides us with our intellectual concepts, we really come to know only the passing and the past. What our intellect gives us, if we are able to look at it in the right light, is really a survey of a world in process of passing away. But we know that with the intellect — as I have said — we can find the Father God. What sort of consciousness, then, relates us to the Father God? The consciousness that the Father God is at the foundation of a world which reveals itself to our intellectuality is in course of wearing away.
Yes, it is indeed so — since the middle of the 15th century man has developed through his intellect a special faculty for studying and observing all that is dying in the world. We analyse and test the world-corpse with our intellectual scientific knowledge. And theologians such as Adolph Harnack, who hold by the Father God alone, are really expounders of that part of the world which is going down and will pass away with the earth and disappear. They are backward-pointing men.
How is it then, in the last resort, with a man who has completely absorbed the modern natural science way of thinking? How is it for him, when this way of thinking has been grafted on to him from early childhood? He learns that out there in the world are phenomena which arise and pass away, but that matter persists, matter is the indestructible thing. The earth may come to an end, but matter will never be destroyed. Certainly (he is told) a time will come when the earth will be one vast cemetery, but the cemetery will be composed of the very same atoms as are already there to-day. A man thus trained in thought centres all his attention on what is passing away, and even when he studies that which is coming into life, he really only studies how the dying plays into it.
An Oriental could never do this; we can see this even in the East of Europe, in the subdued philosophical feeling of Solovieff. He does not bring it to expression as clearly as it will have to be expressed in the future, but he shows unmistakably that he has still enough of the Oriental in him to see everywhere, within what is passing away and crumbling into chaos, the springing up of the new, the birth of what shall be in the future.
If we would understand how this really is, we must envisage it in the following way. All that we see of our fellow men with our senses will one day no longer exist; whatever makes itself known to eye, ear, and so on, will at some time in the future cease to be. Heaven and earth will pass away. For what we see of the stars by means of our senses — that too belongs to the things that are transient. But the “inner word” that is formed in the inner chaos of man, in the centre of destruction — that will live on after heaven and earth are no longer there; it will live on even as the seed of this year's plant will live on the plant of next year. Within man are the seeds of world-futures. And if into these seeds men receive the Christ, then heaven and earth may pass away, but the Logos, the Christ, cannot pass away. Man bears within him that which will one day be, when all he sees around him will have ceased to be.
We must put it to ourselves in this way. I look up to the Father God. The Father God is at the foundation of the world I can see with my senses. The world of the senses is a revelation of Him; but it is none the less a dying, sinking world, and it will drag man down with it if he is completely absorbed in it, if he is able to develop only a consciousness of the Father God. Man would then go back to the Father God; he would not be able to evolve any further. But there is also a new world arising, and it takes its beginning from man himself. When man ennobles his moral ideals through coming to a Christ-consciousness and receiving the Christ Impulse, when he forms and fashions them as they should be formed and fashioned through the fact that the Christ has come to earth, then something comes to life in the chaos within him, seed is sown for the future, a new world dawns within him.
We need to develop a keen and sensitive perception for these two worlds — the setting and the rising world. We must feel how there is in nature a perpetual dying. Nature wears, so to speak, a deathlike hue. But over against this there is also in nature a continual glow of new life, a continual coming to birth. This does not reveal itself in any hue visible to the senses; yet if we open our hearts to nature, it can be perceived.
We look out into nature and see the colours, all the colours of the spectrum, from the red at one end to the violet at the other, with all the shades between. But if we were now to mix these colours in a certain way — make them “colour” one another — they would receive life. They would together become the so-called flesh colour, Inkarnat, the colour that speaks out of man. When we look at nature, we are looking in a certain sense at the spread-out colours of the rainbow, the sign and symbol of the Father God. But if we look at man, it is the Inkarnat that speaks out of the inner being of man, for in man all the colours interpenetrate, and in such a way as to become alive. But when we turn to a corpse, this power to take on life is entirely absent. There, that which is man is thrown back again into the rainbow, into the creation of the Father God. But for the source of that which makes the rainbow into the Inkarnat, makes it into a living unity, we must look within ourselves.
I have tried to lead you, by what may have been at times a rather difficult path, to an understanding of this inner centre of man in its true significance. I have shown you how external matter is thrown back into nothingness, into chaos, so that the spirit may be able to create anew. Let us look at the whole process. The Father God works in matter, bringing it to completion. Matter confronts us in the external world in a great variety of ways, manifesting itself visibly to our senses. But within ourselves this matter is thrown back into nothingness and then permeated with pure spiritual being, filled through and through with our moral or anti-moral ideals. There is the upspringing of new life.
We have to see the world in this double aspect. We see first the Father God, creating what is outwardly visible; we see how this outwardly visible comes to an end inside man, and is thrown back into chaos. We need to feel quite intensely how this world, the world of the Father God comes to its end; only then we shall be able to reach an inner understanding of the Mystery of Golgotha. It will become clear to us how the very thing that comes to an end, in the sense of the creation of the Father God, is endowed with life once more by God the Son; a new beginning is made.
Everywhere in the Western world we can see how since the 15th century there has been a tendency to study and investigate only the corpse-like part of nature, only what is “setting” and passing away. In truth, this is all that is accessible to the pure intellect on its own account. All our so-called education and culture has been developed under the influence of a science that concerns itself only with what is dead. This kind of culture is directly opposed to real Christianity. Real Christianity must have a perceptive feeling for what is living, and for the distinction between everything that is springing into life and everything that is on the way down. Hence the idea most important for us to connect with the Mystery of Golgotha is the idea of the Risen Christ, the Christ who has vanquished death. Much depends on this. Christianity is not merely a religion of salvation; the Oriental religions were also that. Christianity is a religion of resurrection, a religion that awakens again to life that which would otherwise be nothing but matter crumbling away into nothingness.
Out in the cosmos we have the crumbling away of matter in the moon, and in the sun we have a perpetual coming into being, forever new and fresh. When we get beyond ordinary sense-perception and reach the point where Imagination is active, then we can see in the moon something that is for ever splitting up and scattering itself abroad. There, where the moon is situated, its matter splits up and disperses like dust into the world. The matter of the moon is perpetually being collected from its environment and then split up and scattered. If you look at the moon in the consciousness of Imagination, you have a perpetual convergence of matter to the place where the moon is; it collects there, and then it splits up and is scattered like dust into the cosmos. You see the moon like this: first a circle, then a smaller, closer circle, until the circle becomes the moon itself. Then it falls to pieces; it is strewn out over the cosmos. In the moon, matter cannot endure a centre. It concentrates towards the centre of the moon, but cannot endure it; it stops short there and disperses like cosmic dust. It is only to ordinary sense-perception that the moon appears quiet. It is not quiet. It is for ever compressing matter together and scattering it.
When we come to the sun, there we find it is all quite different. Through Imagination we are able to see how matter does not collect in this way at all; true, it does approach the centre, but then it begins to receive life in the rays of the sun that stream out from the centre. It does not split up and disperse; it becomes living, and spreads out life from the centre in every direction. And together with this life it develops astrality. In the moon there is no astrality; there is nothing; the astrality is destroyed. But in the sun astrality unites itself with all that streams out. The sun is in reality permeated through and through with inner life. The centre-point is not tolerated, any more than in the moon, but it has a fructifying influence. In the centre of the sun lives the fructifying activity of our cosmos. Thus in the contrast between sun and moon we can see a cosmic manifestation of the two opposite processes: in the moon matter is thrown back into chaos, while in the sun it is perpetually springing and welling up with life renewed.
When we dive down into our selves, then we look first into our own inner chaos, into our “moon.” That is the inner moon. Matter is destroyed there, as in the external world it is destroyed at one spot alone — where the moon is. But then comes the influence of the sun, entering through our senses; the sun penetrates into our inner “moon.” The matter which is dissolving there into dust is renewed by the sun. Here, within us, matter is constantly falling under the moon influence, and as constantly absorbing the activity of the sun. Such is the relationship in which we stand to the cosmos. We must become aware of these two opposite activities in the cosmos: the moon-nature directed towards pulverising and scattering, and the quickening, life-giving nature of the sun.
In this way we come to behold in that which is dispersing and crumbling to dust the world of the Father God, which had to be there until such times as the world changed into the world of God the Son. The world of God the Son has its physical source in the Sun-nature of the cosmos. Moon-nature and Sun-nature are related to one another as Father Godhead is to Son Godhead.
During the early Christian centuries these things were instinctively perceived. Now they must be known again with full consciousness and clarity of thought, if man wants to say of himself in all truth and honesty: I am a Christian.